Artist: Movie ReviewTitle: 16 Blocks (Film)Rating: 4 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Edwardo jackson
BIASES: 30 year old black male; frustrated screenwriter who favors action, comedy, and glossy, big budget movies over indie flicks, kiddie flicks, and weepy Merchant Ivory fare
“I was trying to do a good thing.” So says on-the-job boozer of a cop Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis), a man depreciating in real time who’s more addicted to Canadian Club than professional ethics. Charged with getting petty criminal witness Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) from jail to the
courthouse (“118 minutes to get a little hemorrhoid 16 blocks. It’s a nothing job.”), Jack’s pause to placate his compulsion kicks off a chain of events aimed at assassinating the man in custody. The forces of a corrupt police precinct descend upon Jack and Eddie on the streets of Downtown New York, determined to keep Eddie’s witness testimony from reaching the ears of the jury before it’s adjourned at 10:00 AM.
A compelling, cinematographic mix of adrenaline and alcohol, 16 Blocks (Warner Brothers), quite simply, rocks. Unfolding almost in real time, this is fantastic, smartly executed entertainment, featuring nice, unexpected moments of levity provided by the juxtaposition of Willis’ “life’s too long,” world weary cop with Mos Def’s antsy, motormouth of an aspiring bakery store owner. Backed by a very high concept script by Richard Wenk (Just the Ticket) with clear-cut goals, obstacles, and resolution, Donner keeps his foot jammed on the pedal, pushing us, and his heroes, into an impossible situation from which we have no idea how they are going to emerge. Even better, it’s through the sheer interplay between characters and their deft development that we actually care about their survival, their future. Just plain old smart filmmaking.
It’s been noted that this is merely an old ’80s buddy cop formula warmed over for 21st century audiences – and that’s fine. With the jumper cable-sparky, antagonistic, anti-chemistry between a cop and a perp that grows, over the space of two hours, into a believable friendship, Bruce Willis and Mos Def are wonderfully matched. Bruce Willis hazily portrays his wino cop with characteristic, professional aplomb, but it is Mos Def who amazes. Mos, as the whiny, high-pitched, wiry Eddie Bunker, is so charismatic, he may never return to rap again. Already nominated for a Golden Globe, Emmy, and Image Award for previous performances, Mos Def is a star on the verge of a major breakthrough in the next few years. He is capable of playing any kind of character with depth, gravitas, and
comic relief that reminds me of a young Don Cheadle. Just like this movie, he holds your attention for “16 Blocks” and beyond.
Edwardo Jackson (ReelReviewz@aol.com) is an author and LA-based screenwriter, visit his website at www.edwardojackson.com